Surveys offering input on a new calendar for Columbia County schools can be filled out beginning Sunday.
However, the most popular calendar chosen by survey takers for the 2007-08 school year might not result in a different school start date, said Columbia County Board of Education Chairman Wayne Bridges.
The survey, which can be completed online at www.ccboe.net or on paper versions available at any public school, will be open for public scrutiny until Feb. 26. It offers three calendars with various start dates: Aug. 23, Aug. 15 and Aug. 6.
Mr. Bridges said the school board is not bound by survey results.
"We're not going to go out there and adopt some calendar that doesn't make any sense," he said.
"We want to see the input from the community. We know there are people against starting (in early August), but at the end of the day we have to decide if it makes sense educationally."
By that, Mr. Bridges said he is referring to standardized test dates, which are determined by the state Education Department.
As an example. Mr. Bridges said the state-mandated window to give End of Course Tests is typically in late April or early May.
"We (the board) have to make sure teachers have time to give students the knowledge they need to perform well on those tests," he said.
Teachers, many of whom favor the early August start date, Mr. Bridges said, will also play a role in the board's decision.
"These are the people that are educating our kids," he said. "We do need to listen to them. We don't need to discount them and say, 'You're not in this. You'll do what we tell you to do.'"
Most people don't understand that state law mandates 180 days of instruction each school year, Mr. Bridges said. Regardless of when school begins, students will still attend that many days of school and, consequently, have the same amount of time off.
Mr. Bridges said he is concerned about preserving vacation throughout the school year.
"I get good reports from families all the time about how they enjoy their fall break," he said. "It's an opportunity for them to go on a cruise or another vacation at a later time in the year.
"If it's such a good thing, why do we want to throw it out the door?"
Although there are many factors in determining a school start date, Mr. Bridges said parental and community input is a major factor and will be given strong consideration.
"We're going to see if there is an overwhelming desire to change," he said. "Then we'll look to see if we can make the change happen, keeping the kids foremost in our minds."
Reach Donnie Fetter at 868-1222, ext. 113, or firstname.lastname@example.org.